Responding to climate change

Women working on their farm in Kenya

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The poorest people are hardest hit

Climate change is more than a threat: it’s a reality for millions of the people we work with. And it’s a huge challenge in the fight against poverty. The impacts of climate change are already destroying livelihoods and increasing economic and social inequalities.

Poor families worldwide bear the brunt of climate change. They are seeing first-hand how unpredictable rainfall patterns cause water shortages, reduce harvests and exacerbate hunger. They are witnessing the effects of more extreme weather such as cyclones and hurricanes that destroy their homes, lives and incomes. And they have to cope with longer, more severe droughts which kill their livestock and threaten their crops.

Times have changed. We used to have two planting seasons in a year, we call them ‘ganna’ and ‘hagaya’ (long and short rainy season). This has recently changed to either one season or none at all. – Abdi Turura, Northern Kenya

Climate change particularly affects women and girls, who are often responsible for farming their fields and collecting water – which means they are increasingly affected by more extreme droughts or floods.

The poorest people are working hardest

We focus on helping poor and marginalised communities adapt to their already changing climates, and to make their livelihoods more resilient to climate shocks such as droughts and floods.

There are many things we can do to help farmers adapt to the negative impacts of climate change. For instance, CARE is teaching farmers to cover their crops so that more moisture will be retained in the soil and they won’t be scorched by the sun. This reduces the crops’ need for water, which is important since droughts are lasting longer and longer now.  – Magalhaes Matsinhe, CARE Mozambique

We empower and promote the rights of vulnerable people to take action on climate change and to build knowledge for the future. To do this we work with governments, the private sector and a wide range of civil society organisations addressing the challenges of climate change.

For example, in Vietnam, the coastal community of Da Loc was heavily damaged by typhoon Damarey in 2005. CARE helped the community extend the mangrove forest on the coast which will serve as a barrier to future typhoon floods. A community group was set up to look after the forest and local people were democratically selected to participate. The villagers had previously had no official rights to the mangrove forest area but, empowered by their experiences, the group negotiated with the authorities and now have a contract with the authorities to lease the land.

Last year, we worked with more than one million people to help them adapt their lifestyles and livelihoods to a changing climate.

Climate change is a global problem

The impacts of climate change are being felt most profoundly in those parts of the world that have contributed least to causing the problem. The consequences are particularly serious in developing countries where livelihoods and ecosystems are highly sensitive to changes in climate; the majority of people rely on the natural resource base for their livelihoods; and the capacity to adapt is limited by poverty, poor governance and inequitable distribution of resources and power.

That’s why we’re working globally to ensure that the rights of the poorest and most vulnerable people are heard at the international climate change negotiations. That’s why we’re advocating for resources and action to be targeted towards helping people to adapt to the changes that are already occurring. And that’s why we’re advocating for governments to put poor people’s concerns at the top of the agenda when planning national responses to climate change.

You can find out more at our Climate Change Information Centre website run by our Poverty, Environment and Climate Change Network (PECCN), which links CARE’s team of climate experts to our front-line work on food security, water, disaster risk reduction and women’s empowerment.